NBA Free Agency 2014: The Most Likely Signing for Every NBA Team
The 2014 NBA free-agency period may not begin until July, but as every team prepares for the offseason there are certain players who are realistic targets for specific franchises.
How do you predict who will sign where at this stage in the game? A few key factors come into play.
First and foremost, there is money. A team with less coin to spend is less likely to land a marquee player, and the same goes for franchises that have traditionally failed to acquire top-tier free-agent talent.
Then there's roster needs. No squad is perfect, as virtually every team has a glaring hole somewhere.
Finally, you must consider the rumors. Not every free agent will have a previous connection to his new organization, but when projecting the future we'd be remiss to ignore what's taken place in the past.
At this juncture, we'll consider both new acquisitions and re-signings within the category of "most likely." That said, free agents with player options or early termination options (those who have not confirmed their status) will be left out, as there's no telling who will opt into or out of their current deals at this point in the process.
Atlanta Hawks: Luol Deng
2013-14 Stats: 16.0 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.9 APG, 15.22 PER
In all likelihood, the player the Atlanta Hawks are most likely to sign this summer is Pero Antic. They have a de facto option on him in the form of a non-guaranteed contract, and according to Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the team is "likely" to make the deal guaranteed for the 2014-15 season.
Thinking outside the current roster, Luol Deng has a chance to be the next piece to the puzzle. Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders has predicted that the former Chicago-Bull-turned-Cleveland-Cavalier will sign with Atlanta, and when you break down the scenario, it makes sense for all parties involved.
For Deng, it gives the former All-Star a chance to make up for the botched Cavs experiment. He was sent there by the Bulls organization, and while there will be other options for him in free agency other than Atlanta, none of them challenged the Indiana Pacers in a seven-game series during the postseason.
For Atlanta, it gives the team a scorer who can also defend. Combine Deng with the return of Al Horford, and you have a team that will be significantly upgraded from last year.
Boston Celtics: Gordon Hayward
2013-14 Stats: 16.2 PPG, 5.2 APG, 5.1 RPG, 16.22 PER
Gordon Hayward and the Utah Jazz never agreed upon a contract extension this past fall, meaning the 24-year-old forward will become a restricted free agent this summer.
Enter the Boston Celtics.
According to A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com, Boston had interest in Hayward back in February before the trade deadline. The report states that the team was hesitant to part with first-round draft picks, which makes sense considering the team is in the midst of a rebuild and holds the No. 6 selection in this year's draft.
With Avery Bradley also on the free-agent docket for Boston, letting him go becomes an easier pill to swallow if the team can bring in a player of Hayward's diverse skill set. Considering the fact that with Hayward's former head coach at Butler, Brad Stevens, is now roaming the Celtics' sidelines, you've seemingly got a match made in basketball Heaven.
Brooklyn Nets: Andray Blatche
2013-14 Stats: 11.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 0.5 BPG, 18.85 PER
On Monday, April 2, the Brooklyn Nets will begin workouts for 32 free agents, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN New York. While it's true we could see some of those players land on a summer league team, Andray Blatche remains the free agent who is most likely to sign with the organization.
Entering the 2014 offseason, Brooklyn is strapped for cash. That's what happens when you mortgage your future away for a chance at a title, and it is also what will keep the team from signing anyone of significance on the open market.
Not having cap room to acquire free agents is a problem, but the team should have no qualms about retaining Blatche. The big man has stated that he will opt out of his contract and that he wants to re-sign with Brooklyn, per Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.
The other name worth considering here is Paul Pierce, but the forward could realistically look at retirement or a different organization. Pierce could be back for one final run, but it's Blatche who is most likely to return at this time.
Charlotte Hornets: Rudy Gay
2013-14 Stats: 20.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 18.40 PER
If the Charlotte Hornets are willing to spend big money for the second summer in a row, Rudy Gay could be their guy.
The team formerly known as the Bobcats made headlines last offseason with its big payout for Al Jefferson. As it turned out, that move paid dividends, but it was only enough to get the team to the playoffs, as the team did not win a single postseason game.
Despite having the league's fourth-best defense in terms of points per game allowed, Charlotte's offense was just 23rd in terms of points per game during the 2013-14 campaign. Not only would Gay be a competent threat on that end of the floor, but he's shown through his time with the Sacramento Kings that he can score efficiently at this point in his career.
With Jefferson and Kemba Walker already orchestrating the offense, there wouldn't be any need for Gay to come in and be the man. This franchise isn't satisfied with simply making the playoffs, and in a watered-down Eastern Conference, a move of this magnitude could be all it takes for the Hornets to enter another level.
Chicago Bulls: Nikola Mirotic
2013-14 Stats (EURO): 12.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 46.1 3PT%, 0.8 BPG
Chicago Bulls fans have heard two big names for a while now that have some of them drooling: Kevin Love and Carmelo Anthony.
This summer's most likely acquisition, however, is Nikola Mirotic, and that's not a bad thing.
Mirotic, a 2011 draft pick who has become an absolute star in Europe, has the shooting touch necessary to boost Chicago's putrid numbers from outside. According to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times, Carlos Boozer is likely gone this offseason via the amnesty clause, and in a separate report Nate Duncan of Basketball Insiders breaks down how Chicago could realistically sign Mirotic to a deal starting at $3.5 million per season following a successful buyout.
None of this is to count out a potential superstar signing; it's to say that Mirotic may finally be on his way to the States and that the Bulls are going to be in good shape if he is.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Spencer Hawes
2013-14 Stats: 13.2 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 41.6 3PT%, 15.77 PER
Predicting what the Cleveland Cavaliers are going to do has become nearly impossible. They seem to surprise us with every move they make, and that's not a good thing, as evidenced by their continual appearance in the lottery.
Despite small forward being an area of concern for the Cavs, Luol Deng doesn't appear to be a priority. According to Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal, the team hasn't "expressed much interest in bringing him back."
While bigger names are available—Greg Monroe and Pau Gasol come to mind—the most likely guy to come in and fill the center position is Spencer Hawes. The 26-year-old just enjoyed a career year with Cleveland, and if the Cavs are willing to pay him accordingly, he could be a solid piece in the long-term puzzle.
Dallas Mavericks: Dirk Nowitzki
2013-14 Stats: 21.7 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 49.7 FG%, 39.8 3PT%, 23.68 PER
This should be one of the easiest calls to make this summer.
At this juncture, it's widely assumed that re-signing Dirk Nowitzki is priority No. 1 for the Dallas Mavericks. It's a rare thing in today's game to see a great player (or any player, for that matter) stick with one team his entire career, but we might have the pleasure of seeing just that with one final contract between Nowitzki and the Mavs.
Despite proving he's still a 20-plus-points-per-game player this past season, the 35-year-old recognizes that he'll have to take a dip in pay in order to keep the team competitive. He told Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News recently that he doesn't expect to get "Kobe's deal," which makes sense for all parties involved.
In a recent roundup of basketball minds, Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated suggested that a change of scenery could do Nowitzki some good. Until we see that happen, though, don't expect the big man to be playing anywhere other than Dallas in 2014-15.
Denver Nuggets: Quincy Miller
2013-14 Stats: 4.9 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 0.5 APG, 8.62 PER
The Denver Nuggets are about to have a quiet offseason—so quiet, in fact, that Quincy Miller could be their biggest signing outside of the draft.
Not only does Denver not have the cash to sign a marquee free agent, but it doesn't even have the roster space. This is a group that goes as deep as anyone (when healthy), and adding someone of significance without first subtracting a current member of the rotation would be ill-advised.
Retaining Miller is a no-brainer, seeing as how he's on a non-guaranteed contract worth less than $1 million. Nate Robinson and Darrell Arthur also have the potential to return, but it would be under their own free will, as allowed by the player options in their contracts.
Don't expect any big names added to this roster before the 2014-15 season, but if health turns in Denver's favor next season, that won't be a problem.
Detroit Pistons: Greg Monroe
2013-14 Stats: 15.2 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 0.6 BPG, 49.7 FG%, 18.16 PER
The Josh Smith-Greg Monroe-Andre Drummond experiment was a colossal failure for the Detroit Pistons in 2013-14. However, don't assume new head coach and President of Basketball Operations Stan Van Gundy is ready to let Monroe walk as a restricted free agent.
In an interview with Pistons.com, Van Gundy expressed a positive vision for the Monroe-Drummond combination. He stated, "I think it is an ideal pairing. If I look at just the film I’ve watched now and looking at the numbers, you would say that Greg and Andre together were great offensively."
Van Gundy goes on to admit that the pair has work to do defensively, as placing Monroe on the perimeter is a bit too abstract. He's confident, though, that he can create the appropriate schemes on that end of the floor to make life on Monroe a bit easier.
The question of how much money Monroe will command is still up in the air. But if you ask the big man's agent, per NBA.com's David Aldridge, he wants max dollars. His agent goes on to state that Detroit is willing to match that type of offer, which coincides with what Van Gundy is hoping for.
Golden State Warriors: Draymond Green
2013-14 Stats: 6.2 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 1.9 APG, 12.73 PER
Barring a significant trade, the Golden State Warriors are about to have an offseason that will be the polar opposite of the one they had last season.
At this juncture, the Warriors don't have enough cap space to enter any sort of bidding war for top-tier free agents. There's really only one guaranteed signing that is set to take place, and that's Draymond Green.
Entering the offseason, Green has a non-guaranteed contract worth less than $1 million. The team has an easy choice when it comes to bringing him back, and that should be the case without much drama.
The question then becomes: will Golden State persuade a veteran to join at a discount for a shot at a title? It's certainly possible that this scenario plays out in July, but like Green's current deal, it's non-guaranteed.
Houston Rockets: Trevor Ariza
2013-14 Stats: 14.4 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 40.7 3PT%, 15.87 PER
The Houston Rockets love superstars. That fact is evidenced by their procurement of Dwight Howard and James Harden over the past two offseasons, not to mention their interest in Chris Bosh before the big man signed with the Miami Heat.
Carmelo Anthony has even been linked to the Rockets this season, but B/R's Dan Favale stated:
Learning curves are always needed when combining two-plus luminaries, as we saw with the Miami Heat in 2010. But Houston's transition projects to be harder because out of Harden, Anthony and Howard, only one (Howard) can be considered a two-way player, and only one (Harden) is a bona fide distributor.
If the Rockets are looking for that two-way player to come in and make a difference, Trevor Ariza should be on their radar. Snagging him from the Washington Wizards could be difficult after the year he had in 2013-14, but with Ernie Grunfeld targeting both Ariza and Marcin Gortat, the swingman could ultimately walk away if the right offer comes along.
Indiana Pacers: Lance Stephenson
2013-14 Stats: 13.8 PPG, 7.2 RPG 4.6 APG, 14.72 PER
Let's get one thing straight: there is no guarantee Lance Stephenson returns to the Indiana Pacers for the 2014-15 season. His antics during the Eastern Conference Finals threw fuel on the fire for his critics, and as Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star points out that even those within the organization are mixed on whether he'll be back.
Despite the rumors that are sure to fly between now and free agency, Stephenson offers the Pacers a talented perimeter presence, both immediately and into the future. That sentiment rings even truer considering how Evan Turner, the team's once-presumed Plan B, played to close out the year—a sign that Turner is gone as soon as free agency hits.
The Pacers exposed themselves as frauds when it came to championship contention this season, but in a weak Eastern Conference there's no reason to blow up the roster. The Pacers won't have the cap space to bring in a big-time player, making Stephenson the most likely signing come July.
Los Angeles Clippers: Paul Pierce
2013-14 Stats: 13.5 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.4 APG, 37.3 3PT%
The Los Angeles Clippers need a backup center who can defend the rim. Guys such as Jermaine O'Neal and Emeka Okafor come to mind as potential pickups, but the narrative surrounding Paul Pierce is just too juicy to ignore.
According to ESPN.com's Marc Stein, Pierce could very well leave the Brooklyn Nets, and the Los Angeles Clippers are a likely suitor for his services:
If KG decides to play on, those who know him well say Pierce’s incentive to stay in Brooklyn naturally spikes. If Garnett decides it’s time to stop, Pierce is bound to be intrigued even more by the scenario that is said to be on his radar already: Reuniting with Doc Rivers in Clipperland in what would also be a homecoming for the Los Angeles native.
Pierce's salary would have to take a serious hit for this to take place, but at 36 years old (he'll be 37 once the season begins), one last run at a title could outweigh any paycheck he earns. Doc Rivers and Paul Pierce have been through battles before, and if there's one person Pierce wants to play for in his final years, chances are it's his former head coach.
Los Angeles Lakers: Nick Young
2013-14 Stats: 17.9 PPG, 1.5 APG, 2.6 RPG, 38.6 3PT% 16.11 PER
For the Los Angeles Lakers, we'll break our own rule about free agents with player options, but that's only because there's no telling which direction Mitch Kupchak will steer this franchise when July finally hits.
It's clear at this point that 2015 is when the best of the best will hit the market, and L.A. will surely have its eye on the biggest of prizes when that time comes. Until then, there are myriad routes Kupchak could take.
For starters, he could put his eggs into a mini-star's basket. Luol Deng is one option, and with Steve Nash's contract set to expire in 2015, a few key moves could be all it takes to land Kevin Love.
Then again, the general manager could sign multiple guys to one-year deals who could play alongside a hopefully healthy Kobe Bryant and the No. 7 pick, creating the ultimate sense of flexibility in the following offseason.
All in all, only one thing is for sure: Nick Young played well enough to earn a longer deal in L.A. We still don't know exactly how well he will play alongside the Mamba, but if he opts out of his current deal and gives the Lakers a bit of a hometown discount, the experiment should be worthwhile.
Memphis Grizzlies: Pau Gasol
2013-14 Stats: 17.4 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 19.34 PER
The storylines here are downright Hollywood-esque. Pau Gasol returns to the team that drafted him—the team that traded him to the Los Angeles Lakers, and the team that traded him to the Lakers for the right to his own brother.
Because Randolph has yet to opt out, we leave him off this list. But with this season being potentially his last opportunity to earn a long-term deal, it's wise for the Grizzlies to have a backup plan, and a realistic one at that.
If Randolph does indeed opt out, Memphis must decide at what cost it's willing to bring back its low-post anchor. Randolph has helped the Grizzlies form their identity over the past few seasons, but having the Gasols towering the middle could be enough to make up for the loss.
The Lakers will surely consider bringing back the big man for next season, but after the past few years of trade rumors and underachieving, it's likely time for the two parties to split.
Miami Heat: Shaun Livingston
2013-14 Stats: 8.3 PPG, 3.2 APG, 3.2 RPG, 14.52 PER
The Miami Heat and their fans are focused on winning their third championship in a row, and that's the way it should be. Management, however, had better be putting together a plan for this summer, as evidenced by the current contracts on the books.
Once the year comes to a close, the Heat will have just one player guaranteed to return in 2014-15: Norris Cole. Everyone else will either become a free agent or have an option in their contracts that could put them in a new city next season.
Guessing what the Heat will do in free agency is pure speculation at this point, as every rumor going around involves the Big Three. That said, one player who would be a nice addition is Shaun Livingston.
Livingston, coming off of a bounce-back season, should be on the Heat's radar in case Mario Chalmers opts for a bigger paycheck. Livingston could easily be seeking a significant payday himself, but there's always the allure of South Beach and potential championships to go along with whatever cash the Heat can offer.
Livingston and the Heat have tried a relationship before (2008-09), but each party had a drastically different look about themselves than they do now. No one knows what Miami will pull off until LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh announce their decisions, but keep an eye on Livingston as the summer progresses.
Milwaukee Bucks: Greivis Vasquez
2013-14 Stats: 9.6 PPG, 4.1 APG, 38.9 3PT%, 14.20 PER
B/R's Adam Fromal recently put together a thorough report on the financial health of each and every NBA franchise. If you haven't read it, it's a must read.
Regarding the Milwaukee Bucks, Fromal put it best when he said, "Financially, the Milwaukee Bucks have to be licking their chops." The team has money to spend this summer, but Fromal was also realistic about what the team can do with that money.
"The problem is, Milwaukee will have to convince a quality player to join its cause," Fromal said. "And how is that going to happen after this team has been downtrodden for a little while and doesn't routinely fill up the home arena?"
Assuming the Carmelo Anthonys of the league stay clear of Milwaukee, the Bucks are left with two choices in free agency: overpay or target shrewd, under-the-radar signings. The former is what seemingly happened with O.J. Mayo last offseason, so let's give management the benefit of the doubt and assume it will look for reasonable signings to play alongside whomever they select with the No. 2 pick in the draft.
While Milwaukee would love to bring in an Eric Bledsoe or a Kyle Lowry to boost the backcourt, a guy like Greivis Vasquez is more likely. He's someone who can be a reliable backup to Brandon Knight—something the Bucks desperately need.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Danny Granger
2013-14 Stats: 8.2 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 33.6 3PT%
There hasn't been much talk about the Minnesota Timberwolves and the 2014 free-agent class. The obvious reason for this is the Kevin Love saga. The subplot, which has been largely ignored because of Love's status, is that the team has virtually no chance at upgrading its roster without a trade.
Unfortunately for organizations looking to nab Love this summer, Flip Saunders has tried to put an end to those thoughts, stating, "I expect Kevin Love to be here next year," per Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press.
Putting the Love drama aside (for at least a brief moment), consider the mid-level exception Minnesota's best road to improvement after the draft. One name that comes to mind in this case is Danny Granger.
Granger, despite not being the same player he once was, would add sustenance to the perimeter on both ends of the floor. He got lost in the shuffle a bit with Los Angeles Clippers' postseason run, but that could make him more likely to sign a smaller deal that allows for a slightly larger role.
Admittedly, Granger comes across as more of an ideal target opposed to a likely one. That said, if Granger still has playing time in mind and is willing to bypass a contender, the Wolves could use him in their attempt to woo Love with a winning season.
New Orleans Pelicans: Thabo Sefolosha
2013-14 Stats: 6.3 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 10.42 PER
Thabo Sefolosha's words are about to be put to the test.
Following a postseason that saw him play limited minutes for the Oklahoma City Thunder (including three zero-minute showings over the final four contests of the playoffs), Sefolosha was asked if he'll be back with OKC next season. His response? "I have no clue," per Royce Young of ESPN.com.
As ambiguous as those words are, they tell a story of a player who is reading the writing on the wall from his disappearing act in the playoffs. But those aren't the words that will be put to the test.
According to Darnell Mayburry of the Oklahoman, Sefolosha has said, "I like winning. I want to be in a good place with a chance to win something."
If that's truly the case, he'll be willing to take a pay cut and a minute reduction to remain alongside Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. If it's not, there's a team in New Orleans that could use a strong defensive presence on the perimeter.
New Orleans won't have much money to spend this offseason, but it will have minutes to go around, as it was just 25th in defensive efficiency this past year, per ESPN.com.
New York Knicks: Steve Blake
2013-14 Stats: 6.9 PPG, 5.6 APG, 2.9 RPG, 37.6 3PT%, 11.01 PER
As far as this topic is concerned, Carmelo Anthony doesn't exist. Until he officially opts out of his contract, he's not considered a free agent, and therefore he will not be considered a target of the New York Knicks or any other organization.
One player the Knicks are reportedly already considering is Steve Blake, per Ian Begley of ESPN.com. While a replacement at point guard would be ideal in the form of Darren Collison or Shaun Livingston, those two have likely earned themselves bigger paydays than the Knicks can afford.
Remember, this team will only have cap space if Amar'e Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani and Melo all opt out and none of them is retained, which is highly unlikely.
Blake has played for Phil Jackson, and while the Zen Master won't be roaming the sidelines, having that connection makes a free-agent signing seemingly more likely. The 34-year-old is a clear threat on the outside while remaining a pesky defender, which are two attributes the Knicks have struggled finding in a single player.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Caron Butler
2013-14 Stats: 10.5 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 1.5 APG, 39.9 3PT%, 12.24 PER
All right, Oklahoma City Thunder fans, do you want the good news or the bad news first?
Let's get the bad news out of the way.
OKC has virtually no money to spend this summer. The 21st pick in the draft will likely be its biggest acquisition, and free agency is bound to be a quiet as a local library.
The good news? It really doesn't matter.
The reason the Thunder are strapped for cash is because they're paying guys like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka to get them deep into the playoffs. No changes are necessary to become a contender, as this team was two wins away from reaching its second NBA Finals in three seasons.
Re-signing Caron Butler will be a nice move for OKC, and it's a move that should happen. This team doesn't need a big-time upgrade, but a veteran presence and scorer from the perimeter are things every championship squad can use.
Orlando Magic: Jordan Hill
2013-14 Stats: 9.7 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 0.9 BKG, 54.9 FG%, 19.39 PER
Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel has made it clear what he believes the Orlando Magic's intentions are in free agency—or more clearly, what they're not:
After wading into the “kiddie pool” last summer, the team will be more aggressive this July. But it almost certainly won’t go after a maximum-salary free agent. Put it this way: If the worst available free agent this summer would rate as a “1” and LeBron James would rate as a “10,” then the Magic likely will go after a 5 or a 6.
While it's speculation at this point, Jordan Hill is a player who could fit the bill. His potential would lead you to believe he's better than a "5" or "6," but his past production with the Los Angeles Lakers has been largely inconsistent (mostly because of limited minutes).
When asked if he would return to the Lakers next season under the same role, Hill's response was, "Of course not," according to Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times. With the Magic, he'd have a chance to be a part of an organization that is seemingly on the rise and has minutes to give.
Orlando has bigs it can count on, but with the draft on the horizon, B/R's D.J. Foster points out how Dante Exum makes the most sense if available. That takes care of the backcourt, leaving a spot open for Hill in free agency.
Phoenix Suns: Eric Bledsoe
2013-14 Stats: 17.7 PPG, 5.5 APG, 4.7 RPG, 35.7 3PT% 19.62 PER
The Phoenix Suns will have money to spend this summer, and chances are we could see multiple additions to a roster that played surprisingly well in 2013-14.
All that said, the team has one player in mind when it comes to free agency, and that's a guard with incredible upside who happens to already be a part of the rotation.
According to Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic, Robert Sarver hoped to see Eric Bledsoe in Phoenix for the long term. “I think we had a pretty good idea of who Eric was when we traded for him,” Sarver said. “So I wouldn’t say we need to see more of him to match any offer."
That report came back in January when Bledsoe was hurt, but chances are the sentiment still rings true today. Bledsoe showed just how good he can be when he made his return, and Phoenix would be foolish to make him anything less than a top priority in July.
Philadelphia 76ers: Patty MIlls
2013-14 Stats: 10.2 PPG, 1.8 APG, 42.5 3PT%, 18.80 PER
Charles Barkley believes that the Philadelphia 76ers can be a top-notch free-agent destination, according to his conversation with Sportsradio 94WIP (h/t CBS Philly). “With the good young players they got, I think it [Philadelphia] is going to be a destination for a guy," Barkley said. "I really do."
Having money and a young core to build around is one thing, but pulling off a big signing is another. ESPN.com's Amin Elhassan brings to light (subscription required) what a real-life scenario looks like in Philadelphia:
Despite cap flexibility and a well-stocked pick inventory, all indications are that Philly doesn't plan on aggressively seeking roster improvement via trade or free agency, instead opting for a more organic growth plan built on adding more talent in the draft and developing existing personnel.
Most fans in Philadelphia would be fine seeing a guy such as Lance Stephenson or Greg Monroe come in for big-time money. There's also the thought of a young veteran such as Luol Deng or Kyle Lowry.
The more likely scenario is a guy like Patty Mills. He's young enough to develop behind Michael Carter-Williams (without stealing minutes), and he's proficient enough from the outside to boost the team's dreadful shooting percentages.
Portland Trail Blazers: Emeka Okafor
2013-14 Stats: N/A
The Portland Trail Blazers are about to encounter their quietest offseason in years. Barring a move that swaps youth off the bench for a veteran—or (hold your breath, Rip City) a drastic trade that sends LaMarcus Aldridge away in fear of him leaving in 2015—this team will look nearly identical next season.
With Mo Williams set to opt out of his contract, according to the Oregonian's Joe Freeman, there's a chance Portland could be looking for a guard. Williams admits, however, that he's simply seeking a longer deal and not a new location.
With that in mind, Portland has to target frontcourt players with the mid-level exception. Emeka Okafor would have to take a huge pay cut from last season to accept that kind of deal, but considering he missed the entire year with a neck injury, it's not hard to see how the big man could sacrifice dollars for playing time.
Historians will laugh at the idea of Portland taking on an injured big, seeing how Greg Oden, Sam Bowie and Bill Walton will haunt the franchise for the rest of time. Luckily for the Blazers, they're coming off a season that saw four starters play all 82 games, and a player of Okafor's caliber would help strengthen a defense that desperately needs to be addressed.
Sacramento Kings: Isaiah Thomas
2013-14 Stats: 20.3 PPG, 6.3 APG, 34.9 3PT%, 20.54 PER
Isaiah Thomas may have been the breakout player of the 2013-14 season. He only finished 11th in the voting for Most Improved Player, but how many people can say they saw the second-year player out of Washington boosting his numbers to the level he did?
Despite Thomas' impressive year, there's little chatter surrounding his free-agent status. It's true that the NBA has become a point guard's league and that scoring floor generals are as popular as ever, but the result of that fact is that there are very few openings at the position.
If Thomas receives a large offer in free agency, it wouldn't be shocking to see Sacramento let him walk. That said, if no team comes forth with that type of deal, the Kings have a strong chance of bringing him back and further developing the two-man game between him and DeMarcus Cousins.
San Antonio Spurs: Evan Turner
2013-14 Stats: 14.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.2 APG, 12.43 PER
Evan Turner's time with the Indiana Pacers didn't go as planned. When asked about his status with the team, the 25-year-old stated, "I really don't know to tell you the truth," via Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star.
When asked about his value, Turner admitted, "Clearly, you're judged on, like, your last game, the last couple of months then it probably wasn't ideal for me in regards to (the) contract but at the same time, I think it's known that I can play basketball and everything will work itself out."
Turner believes he can play, but he's smart enough to know what the second half of the season did to his value. The swingman will likely have to take a smaller salary than he once envisioned, but that could be long forgotten if he signs with the perfect organization.
If there's a franchise better suited to mold role players into key contributors than the San Antonio Spurs, I've never heard of it. The Spurs could take Turner and essentially turn him into what he was supposed to be with the Pacers.
According to ESPN.com's Marc Stein, the Spurs tried to make a push for Turner at the deadline this past regular season. It's clear at this point that they didn't need him to make the Finals, but at a discounted price he could be a solid pickup in free agency.
Toronto Raptors: Kyle Lowry
2013-14 Stats: 17.9 PPG, 7.4 APG, 4.7 RPG, 38.0 3PT%, 20.20 PER
There are two mentalities when it comes to Kyle Lowry: the Toronto Raptors can't afford to keep him, and the Toronto Raptors can't afford to let him go.
After watching the team from The North land the No. 3 seed in the East and take the Brooklyn Nets to the final possession in Game 7 in the first round of the playoffs, the latter mentality appears to be the claim with the most weight.
When listening to Lowry after the team's first-round loss, his words, albeit vague, lend hope to fans that he wants to return. "I love this place. I love this situation. It's as simple as that," he said, per The Canadian Press (h/t CBC Sports).
Retaining Lowry has to be the main concern, as letting him walk would be a clear step in the wrong direction. The East is weak enough for the Raptors to remain competitive with a solid replacement, but identity is important for this rejuvenated fanbase, and Lowry is at the forefront of the movement.
Utah Jazz: Jimmer Fredette
2013-14 Stats: 5.6 PPG, 1.3 APG, 47.6 3PT%, 15.88 PER
Anybody who's a fan of both the Utah Jazz and Gordon Hayward would like to believe that the 24-year-old swingman is likely to return. Those fans have a chance at being right, but remember, ESPN's Marc Stein reported at the start of the year that Hayward was seeking a deal worth four years and upwards of $50 million.
That kind of deal, if it comes to fruition, is going to be tough for Utah to match. Hayward has proven that he has a versatile skill set, but a poor year shooting the ball may make the Jazz think twice when considering that kind of offer.
More likely is a Jimmer Fredette signing. Bringing the long-distance shooter back to the state where he made his name makes too much sense, especially considering the fact that the team was 25th in three-point shooting this past season.
None of this is to say Fredette will be No. 1 on the team's free-agent big board, as there are higher profiles with higher upside available. But with Utah in the midst of its rebuild—not to mention suffering from "small-market syndrome"—a Fredette signing would be practical this summer.
Washington Wizards: Marcin Gortat
2013-14 Stats: 13.2 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 54.2 FG%, 17.66 PER
Marcin Gortat has never been a free agent. For that reason alone, it's not unreasonable to assume he'll test the waters and see what he's worth.
Gortat will have numerous suitors, but chances are he won't find a team more eager to lock him up than his current organization. The Washington Wizards' core already comprises young pieces, making a big free-agent splash unnecessary.
While the Wizards would love to retain both Gortat and Trevor Ariza, that may be wishful thinking. Both played above their pay grades in 2013-14, and letting one go may be the only option.
At age 30, Gortat's upside isn't his best selling point, but his production is. Combine that with Nene's health over the past few years, and you've got the perfect anchor inside/insurance policy for this up-and-coming franchise.
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